Summit County approves the use of Class 1 e-bikes on the county rec path system |

Summit County approves the use of Class 1 e-bikes on the county rec path system

A handful of dockless electric bikes from Summit Bike Share sit outside the Broken Compass Brewery on Aug. 2018 in Breckenridge. Class 1 e-bikes are now allowed on the county rec path network, with the towns expecting to align their rules with the county.
Hugh Carey /

Pedal-assisted e-bikes without a throttle and a max speed limit of 20 miles per hour will now be allowed on the county-managed rec path network. Summit County’s board of county commissioners opened up the recapth to Class 1 e-bikes during its regular meeting on Tuesday.

The decision is a year in the making, with commissioners and residents expressing initial concern about the safety and traffic impact the battery-powered bicycles would have on recpaths. Class I e-bikes have a small electrical motor powered by a battery which give a “boost” to pedaling that makes climbing hills and covering long distances easier to manage.

Those concerns were largely assuaged for the commissioners, who voted unanimously to remove Class 1 e-bikes from county regulations defining “motorized vehicles” banned from riding on recpaths. Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes — which have a throttle increasing speed without the need for pedals and higher speed limits — are still considered motorized vehicles and banned on recpaths.

Allowing e-bikes on the recpaths would align Summit County’s regulations with neighboring Vail and the state, which allow Class 1 and 2 e-bikes on bike, multi-use and pedestrian paths.

Colorado changed its law to allow Class 1 and 2 e-bikes in the same places regular bicycles are allowed back in 2017. However, the law allows for local jurisdictions like Summit to make their own e-bike regulations in accordance with community desires.

After numerous public meetings, work sessions and staff reports, the commissioners agreed that it was safe and appropriate to allow Class 1 e-bikes on the recpaths. One of the concerns with allowing e-bikes on county recpaths was how to enforce regulations, but that task is made easier given Class 1 e-bikes don’t have a throttle.

“One of the positives of the Class 1 e-bike only approach is that it has to be pedaled,” Summit County Open Space and Trails resource specialist Michael Wurzel told the commissioners. “If you saw someone on flat stretch of recpath moving forward without pedaling, you know they are Class 2.”

Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she favored allowing e-bikes given what she had heard about how it may be a great commuter tool for Summit County residents. However, she and other commissioners noted that residents also voiced concern on making the high traffic volume on recpaths worse.

As it turns out, none of those resident complaints were heard Tuesday, as the only members of the public to comment on the new ordinance were a Breckenridge couple who supported it.

The ordinance goes into effect on county recpaths immediately, however, the towns are still working on their own ordinances.

On Tuesday evening, Breckenridge was to perform a second reading of its own e-bike ordinance meant to align its rules with the counties, while Wurzel said that the staffs of other towns have indicated they, too, will create regulations to align with the county’s. Wurzel said that when no town ordinance applies, regulations default to the state’s standards of allowing Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on multi-use paths.

The county will be working on an education campaign to inform residents and visitors of the new rule, and will perform outreach with local bike retailers and rental shops to encourage them to only rent or sell Class 1 e-bikes.

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